When President George H.W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30 at the age of 94, eight months after his wife Barbara, first appeared on the cover of TIME in 1970, it was as a knight battling for a Senate seat in Texas. Bush was part of a wave of Republicans seeking office in that chamber at the time — one whose sense of humor made an impression on the magazine:
Chronicling the travels and travails of Texas’ George Bush, Correspondent Leo Janos reports that one afternoon they landed at a private airport in Fort Worth only to find the place deserted. “Well, what does TIME think of this warm and friendly reception?” Bush asked. “Positively Humphreyish,” replied Janos. “No,” grinned the candidate. “Bush-league.”
Bush lost that race, but over the nearly 50 years that followed he would prove that his political skills were anything but amateur. From Senate candidate to President of the United States to political patriarch, Bush appeared on the cover of TIME in all those guises, nearly two dozen times. Here’s a look back at that evolution.